Peppermint currently is a popular flavoring in hard candy, such as round mints and candy canes, fudge, ice cream and gum. Long before its potent taste was added to confections, peppermint oil was used for medicinal purposes.
While the origin of peppermint candy is unclear, historical accounts show that peppermint oils have been used since ancient times to calm the stomach and for other remedies. Farmers in Europe began commercially growing the plant, which is a natural cross between watermint and spearmint, in the late 1700s.
Peppermint in Candy
It is not known exactly when peppermint-flavored candy first appeared. The confection is mentioned by slaves in the Library of Congress’ American Memory project. Smith Kendon developed Altoids in 1780 to relieve intestinal discomfort, and Life Savers introduced its Pep-O-Mint flavor in 1912. In 1927, Eduard Haas, of Vienna, Austria, invented peppermint Pez candy and the original dispenser.
Peppermint Candy Legends
There are several legends surrounding peppermint candy canes. For example, an account in “Sweet!” by Ann Love and Jane Drake says that in 1670 a German choirmaster gave out sticks of sugar candy to children to keep them quiet.
References and ResourcesMedlinePlus: Background of Peppermint
Library of Congress: American Memory
Wrigley Brands: Life Savers and Altoids
Tundra Books: Sweet! The Delicious Story of Candy
MIT Inventor of the Week: Eduard Haas